5 ways to get toddlers and pre-schoolers to wear their face mask for longer

Tips to encourage kids to wear their face masks, plus our favourite ones your tot will love…

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At first it was just doctors and nurses who had to wear a mask while they were caring for their patients in hospital. But with the global spread of COVID-19, everyone over the age of 2 is advised to wear a mask when they go out in public to protect themselves. Unfortunately for our little ones, it’s something they’re not used to – for them, it’s something strange and even scary.

ALSO SEE: Why face masks are not safe for babies and toddlers

So, how do you help your little one understand why he needs to wear a mask when you go out. And, how can you make it more comfortable, and even fun, to wear?

Why some kids are scared of masks

How your child reacts to seeing masks will depend largely on his age. If your little one is a little older, it might not faze him at all. In fact, he might think that every time he puts it on, he turns into a superhero!

But for infants and toddlers it can take some getting used to. The reasons is because from the time they are babies, young kids look at faces for signs that they are safe. When your face is blocked by a mask, they can’t see your friendly smile or a familiar look that will put them at ease. When they can’t see your whole face, it stands to reason that they can feel a bit scared.

Some little ones may cry when you try put on a face mask, others might refuse by hiding their face, or cling to you.

But you can help your child feel more comfortable – all kids learn that something that might have seemed scary in the beginning is not so scary after all.

ALSO SEE: This is what ECD centres and day care facilities will look like when they reopen

Here are 4 useful tips to encourage little kids to wear their masks:

Help them to get used to masks.

Practise at home with them before they have to go out with one. Help them to practice how to put one on and take it off.

Help make it fun.

Introduce a sense of play – your little one can pretend to be a doctor or a nurse while wearing their mask. You can even let them use a “doctor kit” and take care of their doll or a favourite soft toy.

Have a few masks handy.

When they’re playing at home, let them use their imagination about how to use them while they play at home. It helps make masks a more normal part of their everyday life – at least now while we’re all doing our bit to contain the spread of the virus. You can ask them to put masks on their teddy bears or a favourite soft toy and to tell you why his toy has to wear one. This will give you a good opportunity to clear up any confusion, and offer reassurance.

Encourage them to decorate it.

Let them help you shop or sew a mask. Encourage your child to decorate their mask with a personal touch like a sticker. Depending on the type of mask, you can even get them to draw on them.

Make sure it’s snug and comfy.

It’s important that your little one’s mask fits properly. According to Sr Burgie Ireland, you’ll know the mask fits properly if there aren’t big gaps between the skin and the mask. “It should fit securely and comfortably enough on your child without moving or slipping off the nose when he’s talking.” She says the material the mask is made out of is also important. Some children might find the fabric “scratchy”. You need to make sure the material isn’t too stiff or hard so it doesn’t irritate their skin if they’re sensitive. At the same time, the material should also not be too thick or too thin. “The mask should be porous enough to allow him to breath comfortably but shouldn’t be so thin you could blow out a candle,” Burgie says.

Here are 5 masks that get the kids’ thumbs-up:

Wren design kids face mask, made from a combination of cloth and paper so your kids can draw on them, R120

Wren design kids face mask

Keedo girls single-layer cloth face mask, R149 for pack of 3

Keedo face mask

2 layer “bunny” or “mellow tiger” fabric mask, R95

Blanki Mellow Tiger face mask

Emoji triple layer mask, R135 for a pack of 4

Emoji triple layer mask

Grey stars, double layer cloth face mask, R65

Grey stars, double layer cloth face mask

DJ Zinhle kiddies masks, R149 for 2

Fun reusable double layer cloth face masks, R50

Fun reusable double layer cloth face masks

These are great options for kids who are claustrophobic or just don’t like wearing  a mask: 

Kids bucket hat with shield, R150

Kids bucket hat with shield

Kids face shield (cute brown bear) R150 for a pack of 2

Kids Face Shield

 

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